BREMERTON – They formed a circle of solidarity outside First Christian Church, each of 40 people clutching a shining white candle.
Their breath came out as steam as a drizzly, 43-degree Tuesday afternoon slowly relinquished itself to the longest night of the year.
The service was to bear public witness for the homeless shivering, tucked here and there in the woods throughout Kitsap, and to pray for the souls of the homeless who have died here this year.
“We are here to say that’s not OK,” the Rev. Debbie Little of First Christian announced simply as those who had gathered – churchgoers, elected leaders and young people – individually uttered their quiet support.
She invited prayer:
“The Lord is my shepherd,
“I shall not want.”
The pastor prayed for Adam Scott Smordin, found face-down and dead in his tent June 23 in woods in East Bremerton. He’d laid fine wood floors in his life, and taught karate to kids.
She prayed for the unknowns like Smordin whose lives ended this year in the deep valley of homelessness.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
“I fear no evil for You are with me.”
Bishop Larry Robertson, of Emmanuel Apostolic Church, said earlier this year he stopped at a store in Chico to get gas for his car. He spotted a man sitting by the pumps. He learned later that the man was homeless and died just a few hours later.
Robertson said he wondered what might have happened had he spent a few moments in conversation.
“Could his night have been different? It will always stay with me,” he said.
Tina Marie Roberts sang, her voice offering reconciliation to these worshippers in a county with so little available housing for the homeless. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services and the Kitsap County Health District estimated that last January, 1,854 people in Kitsap had no roofs over their head.
“My cup overflows.”
Mayor Patty Lent said the city is proceeding with plans to possibly turn the former CenCom building on Wheaton Way into a facility for the homeless. She said two other entities have offered to help. One is Paratransit Services on Auto Center Way. She declined to name the other.
“We’re going to make this happen,” Lent said.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has received all its permits and in coming days plans to open a temporary tent city behind its Sixth Street facility.
Transit buses and the shipyard crowd roared home along the streets nearby in the now ink-black night.
Bishop Robertson said of Smordin, “We trust that he has a home now.”
“Your goodness and grace will follow me all the days of my life.
“And I will live with You forever.”